High soil temperatures lead to good growth

By Graeme Pitman

Warm weather with plenty of rain over the past month has resulted in good pasture growth rates, feed levels and milk production over mid-summer on the Stratford Demonstration Farm.

Levels of surplus pasture have remained low though, so supplements made are relatively low and this will limit late-autumn milking days on the low-input farmlet.

After a dry mid-month period there was moderate rain in late December, which brought the monthly rainfall total up to near average levels in total and a good turn around in pasture growth, which had been relatively slow in mid-December. January rainfall has been adequate to high, so the good growth has continued and should do for a while yet. December was also warm with average temperatures being over 1°C above average. Soil temperatures have been particularly high lately at around 19°C which is 2°C above average. Pasture growth for January has been limited a bit by hot weather, but so far has been 53 kg DM/ha/day and clover levels have been good.

The high-stocked high-input farmlet has been on around a 25 day round and have been fed 3 kg PKE/cow/day supplement and were producing 1.58 kg ms/cow/day and 6.3 kg ms/ha/day for the first two weeks of the month. They are 12 per cent ahead of last year on a daily basis and 15 per cent ahead for the year with 1017 kg ms/ha produced so far.

A high 4140 kg DM/ha brought-in feed so far has, however, been used to do this and minimal supplement made. The rotation for this group has now been extended to 28 days for most of the rest of the season with PKE to be fed as needed.

The low-stocked low-input farmlet has been on around a 22-day round on all grass feeding and were producing 1.4 kg ms/cow/day and 4 kg ms/ha/day for the first two weeks of January. They were 19 per cent ahead on a daily basis and 5 per cent ahead for the season with 644 kg ms/ha produced so far. Twelve per cent of the farmlet is still to be cut as late light supplement and total supplements made are expected to be a low 280 kg DM /cow, which is 30 per cent less than last season. Earlier drying off at the end of the season will therefore be required for this group. The rotation for this group has also now been extended to be 28 days when late harvested paddocks are back in.

With the good current pasture growth no early culling of cows is expected to be needed. However, a pregnancy test will be done in mid-February to determine late calvers and empties to help in culling decisions. Zinc supplementation to help prevent facial eczema problems is also beginning and general summer repairs and maintenance jobs are being done.

Graeme is farm management consultant for the Stratford Demonstration Farm.

- Stratford Press

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